The Snowy Owl I’d missed a few weeks prior was still being sighted out in eastern Washington. I felt inspired to try again. Luckily, so did Jen, Jacob, and the rest of their pack.
We left our respective homes at 3am to meet in Kennewick by 8am. By that time I was buzzing from lack of sleep, too much caffeine, and the anticipation of what we might find. Or not find.
I was not alone in dipping on this owl, Jacob had also spent time scanning rural horizons for a snowy with no luck. There’s no telling sometimes how the day will go.
This day started nicely with Barn Owls, more than I’d seen last time, and this time one even dove out of the cave and flew beautifully over the grasses by the road.
We could have stayed all day, but luckily Jen reminded us there was another owl to be found. We’d seen photos of the Snowy Owl perched on a red post.
We scanned and looked and eventually, we turned on an unmarked dirt road, one that was previously blocked by a creepy semi during my first trip.
This time though, the path was clear and it was along this road, we found the owl.
It was incredible. I didn’t realize how big Snowy Owls are; they’re larger than a Great Horned Owl, and smaller in length than a Great Gray Owl but with the same wingspan and a 25.6oz heavier weight. Making them the largest owl in North America by weight. Bulky as a barrel but she wears it well.
After admiring from a distance and not flushing the owl, I was relieved we’d found it and proud we’d adhered to good birding ethics. It is tempting to hug owls sometimes, but we resisted.
But we couldn’t resist looking for more. We left and went to stare at a row of willows that I’ve stared at once before.
But this time was way better because I found my first perched Long-eared Owl!
They’re mostly invisible. And smaller and larger than I thought they’d be. Mythical I’d say. Just when you think you see one it disappears. And then you see one and three more and then none. We found four before they melted back into the branches.
It was such a great success, three species of owls and it was only mid-day! Plenty of time left to look for more, so we headed to a park along the Snake River.
Along the way, Jacob pointed out his two reliable Great Horned Owls, right where they’re supposed to be tangled in the thicket.
Finally we arrived at the park where two years ago I saw my first Northern Saw-whet Owl with Tomas. It was amazing then and still amazing now.
I’d forgotten how small they are! Only about 8″, it would take three saw-whets to reach the height of a Snowy Owl. We found two.
The second one was holding a rodent.
Below on the ground we found more evidence of their kills.
It makes me wonder. According to BirdWeb saw-whets are sit-and-wait predators that hunt almost exclusively at night, so when/how are they attacking yellow-rumps? My guess is YRWAs get too close and bam. Just a guess though.
We continued through the park, enjoying the now sunny weather, as we bumped into more owls including these Great-horned Owls
This park is wild and lovely.
I’m still reeling from the number of owls three people and three dogs (a six-pack!) can find in a day. We’d found 16 individuals and 5 species. Surreal!
In the evening we toasted over beers, nachos, and burgers to the best day of owls and to the possibilities of what we might find next.
Owls, owls, and owls,